Ideas of Race in the Late 19th and 20th Centuries

The concept of race has been a point of debate and controversy throughout history. As the world has evolved, so have the ideas and beliefs associated with race. In this article, we will explore the ideas of race in the late 19th and 20th centuries, and the implications they had on society.

Late 19th Century Ideas of Race

During the late 19th century, the idea of race was shaped by the concept of scientific racism. This was a pseudoscientific belief that certain races were inherently superior to others. This belief was used to justify colonization and imperialism, as well as a form of eugenics that sought to “improve” the race through selective breeding. This idea of race was also used to justify the oppression of certain ethnic and racial minorities, such as African Americans in the United States.

At the same time, there were also more progressive ideas of race, such as the concept of pan-Africanism, which sought to unite all of the African diaspora under one banner. This idea was popularized by figures such as Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois, who sought to empower African Americans and give them a sense of pride in their heritage.

Twentieth Century Ideas of Race

During the 20th century, the concept of race continued to evolve. One of the most influential figures of this period was Franz Boas, who argued against the concept of scientific racism and instead advocated for a more culturally-based approach to understanding race. This idea of cultural relativism, which argued that all cultures had an equal value, became increasingly popular and was widely accepted by the mid-20th century.

At the same time, ideas of racial identity began to become more complex. This was particularly true in the United States, where the civil rights movement was pushing for greater equality for all people, regardless of race. This idea, known as “colorblindness”, argued that race should not be a factor in determining how people are treated.

Overall, the ideas of race in the late 19th and 20th centuries have had a lasting impact on society. From the pseudoscientific beliefs of scientific racism to the more progressive ideas of pan-Africanism and colorblindness, these ideas have shaped the way we understand race today. As we continue to move forward, it is important to remember the lessons of the past to ensure that we create a more equitable and just society for all.